While Natural Family Planning Awareness Week 2012 has passed, I still find myself counting my blessings that it is a part of my life. When it comes to the birth control debate, there are a few ways my life could have gone:
I walk into my gynecologist’s office for the first time. I am seriously intimidated at the thought of “becoming a woman” with a broken body. My cycles are irregular and it feels complicated. My mom is there with me, but she does not have irregular cycles. Her and my doctor decide that it is best to regulate them for the time being with birth control. I am being given medicine by a medical professional and I do not question it. I stay on various forms of hormonal birth control throughout high school and college under the constant reminder that I am broken and this helps to make me “normal”. When it comes time for my husband and I to begin planning our family, the hormonal birth control I have been on for nearly ten years has not only masked my heath issues, but it has increased my risk for breast cancer and brought about more fertility issues. I spent ten years of my life unaware of what I was doing.
I walk into my gynecologist’s office for the first time. I am seriously intimidated at the thought of “becoming a woman” with a broken body. My cycles are irregular and it feels complicated. My mom backs my decision to not try to control the irregular cycles at this time. She continues to back me for no reason other than my heart is telling me there is something that just doesn’t feel right about it. The encouragement she gives me through all of this helps me build confidence to seek out other options. I find a doctor and a natural family planning method that helps me to understand my body and to figure out what is causing the irregular cycles. The method helps me to monitor my own ovulation and cycles. With my doctor, I am able to isolate the cause of the irregular cycles, and when I am married and we begin to plan out our life, we know beforehand the possible problems we could face and we have a plan of action. There is no guess work involved, and I am fully informed.
I know that every woman has a different body, a different story, and a different outcome. I know that this is not a perfect example, but for me those scenarios accurately reflect how that one event impacted my life. Often when I engage in a discussion about birth control, I am presented with the following arguments (just to name a few):
1. Hormonal birth control is a way for women to have it all: careers first, then a small tidy family when they are ready.
2. Birth control helps women that have crazy cycles. Women with crazy cycles cannot use NFP because their cycles are not normal.
3. It is just a way for them to control when they have a child: it is for those just looking to take back the control that society has taken from them.
4. The risks are known and it is worth it.
I am not so self righteous to believe that I speak for every woman. I also am fully aware of the rather giant leap of faith it takes for single folks to remain abstinent, and married folks to remain open to life in their marriages (and all the responsibilities that come with it). Acknowledging these things, I offer the following responses to the above arguments:
1. Having it all simply does not exist for men or women. However, we can have a fulfilling life if we choose to love others. The highest form of love is sacrificial love. Love of our children, spouses, families and friends is full of trials, triumphs and sacrifices. All of those things are worth it.
2. I have irregular, crazy cycles and I use NFP. They have become less crazy and irregular over time with proper medical treatment that treats causes, not symptoms. I am an expert on my body.
3. I offer Scenarios One and Two as a response to this argument. In which scenario did I have more “control”? No one’s body is exactly like mine and while I utilize NFP to understand my body, not to control it, I do so with informed consent: I am fully aware of ALL my options and I have chosen the least harmful.
4. This argument is given confrontationally usually. I know that not every person has access to NFP at this time. I also know that there is A TON of misinformation about NFP, and that popping a pill or inserting some crazy looking devise seems easier than taking a class that teaches you about how to recognize the signs of ovulation and how to tailor an NFP method to your own body. I can’t change this argument’s mind. I do however challenge this argument to give informed consent in its truest form: really truly do the research. Really truly understand what NFP is, and the true risks and stats of birth control. Demand that women deserve comprehensive health care. Then make your choice.